You’ll perhaps notice that I haven’t posted in quite a while despite the fact that I’m always passionate about my blog. I love the process of writing quirky posts and receiving comments and ‘likes’, both of which feel like rewards for my efforts and serve to motivate me for my next post.
In June, a holiday in St David’s, Pembrokeshire was approaching and I was very much looking forward to it. I felt the need for a serious rest and wanted to clear my head of negative thoughts surrounding my writing journey and return refreshed, fired up and ready to crack on with a vengeance.
I’d been trying for months to add to the sequel of THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK and it gradually dawned on me that the reason I was struggling to get motivated was because I no longer enjoyed writing. Why though? I’d thoroughly enjoyed my author journey until then, from writing my original dating blog, editing the manuscript from 230K-130K words, formatting the manuscript for Kindle publishing, designing the book cover, researching, marketing, building a website, using social media platforms for self promotion, making a book trailer, to goodness knows what else. There was always something to do, never enough hours in the day, and I loved the new challenges landing on my doorstep, not to mention the steep learning curve. It was immensely satisfying and unless you’re an author yourself, you can never imagine the excitement and incredible sense of pride and achievement when you hold your paperback in your hands for the first time, or see the sales pouring in to your Kindle and publishing accounts.
Aaah … but it all becomes less exciting and rewarding when no matter which marketing tactics you employ, the sales eventually dwindle to less than five per month (in my case anyway). It’s not that I expect to earn a living out of my one book, but I need to feel appreciated and receive a regular pat on the back for all my hard work in whichever way the ‘pat’ presents itself. Any way that puts a smile on my face or makes me want to punch the air with a ‘yesssssss!’ would be worthwhile. I’d like to reach twenty sales per week but I know the likelihood of this is remote.
For six months I had spent every weekday promoting myself and my book. From the moment I awoke, I’d sit up in bed, check in to Twitter on my Blackberry and begin replying to other authors’ messages and retweet their own self promo tweets until I was in ‘Twitter jail’. This process would take an hour or more. I’d then get washed and dressed and straight on to the laptop to continue my working day. I’d sit glued to my laptop from 9am until at least 6pm (often until 10pm!), research all kinds of things relating to book promotion and put them in to practice, promote and support other authors (ending up in Twitter Jail a couple more times per day!), self promote, write blogs, answer emails, and desperately try to find time and the motivation to add to my sequel of THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK.
Here’s something that appears to have become lost in translation about THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK. It is a true story, detailing all my dating experiences during a specific time in my forties when I became literally desperate to settle down and have children before my biological clock ran out and my looks deteriorated. I’d never been short of male attention but for some reason I’d not had a proper boyfriend since 1993. It was thirteen years later in 2006 when I made the decision to write my journal online as a blog (for family and friends only), and it was that blog which eventually ended up being edited in to THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK.
When I first marketed my book I was so concerned about protecting the identities of everyone (especially my men) that I placed it in the Fiction genre, with sub genres of Womens Fiction (otherwise known as ‘chick lit’), and Contemporary Romance. I changed all names and places, and other identifiable details – I wanted all of my men to feel comfortable in the knowledge that no one would ever know who they were. I am known as Mae in my story because back then my online alias was Mae Daisy and many of my dating introductions occurred online.
Those of you who are regular visitors to my blog may have noticed that my posts are written from true life experiences or about things for which I have a real passion. My sequel to THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK is 50% true and 50% fiction. Therein lies my problem. I do not have a creative imagination. I enjoy writing the true parts because they are from the heart and I’ve never been afraid to bare my soul. I can write pages upon pages from my heart. However when it comes to writing fiction, whilst I manage to, I have come to dread it because it’s not easy, it does not flow from my heart, and to be frank, it’s a real uphill struggle.
So, there I was before my holiday, feeling that all my marketing efforts were not paying off, and I had lost all motivation for writing my sequel. I was left thinking, what’s the point? Where was any of this getting me? Then the final nail in the coffin arrived, superbly timed (not!), in the form of a 1 STAR review at Amazon. No authors like to receive anything under 3 STARS, it does hurt, but I’d learned after I received my first particularly unpleasant review to rise above the nasty ones and accept that the majority were favourable at 4 and 5 STARS, and therefore in the grand scheme of things, what does the odd 1 STAR actually matter? Having said that, on this particular day I felt so low, that this 1 STAR review kicked me down lower than I’d felt in years and in my heart I felt it was time to give up. My darling partner told me not to be too hasty and to just step away from it all for a few days. Good advice. I decided to do very little self promo work on the approach to our holiday which was just a few days away, and just made sure I supported my author friends, retweeting their work as and when I could.
During my two weeks holiday I expected my mojo to gradually return. I thought perhaps I was having ‘a moment’ and I’d feel better about things quite soon. But no. To my horror, after two weeks of rest, my mojo had not found its way back home. I felt worse than ever and didn’t even want to add to my blog. I tweeted giving hints of how I was feeling (within the restricted 140 characters – difficult!) and a couple of lovely authors reacted to them.
One author – you know who you are 😉 – who has read THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK suggested that I market my book as a memoir rather than fiction. After all, that’s what it is, my very own true life blog. She felt it didn’t sit correctly in ‘chick lit’ and I’d have far more success if people are clear that it’s reality. I’d never kept this information from the reader as it is explained in the Acknowledgements section of the book, however many readers choose to skip such sections and go straight to the story and of course they have already bought the book by that time. Reality is huge right now – just look at every other TV show, from documentaries to docusoaps, competitions such as Big Brother, X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing – the majority of the viewing public are bonkers for it or else TV production companies would not turf out so much. In the literary world, the genre of Memoirs is far less crowded/competitive than Women’s Fiction and therefore this will go in my favour. I need to attract more readers/buyers and in order to do this I must actively shout about the fact that it’s my true dating story. It’s obvious really but sometimes the answer can be staring me in the face and I still bypass it!
When this little gem was pointed out to me, the penny well and truly dropped and it was like a door opened and my mojo walked straight back in! But, for now the sequel is on the back burner as there must be consistency. I can’t have the first book as a memoir and the second as fiction and memoir – no, that wouldn’t work.
I have already begun making changes. My tweets now shout out ‘#memoir’ and ‘#truestory’, my synopsis at Amazon makes this fact clear too. I’m also looking at changing the cover completely and can’t wait to have a whole new look and vibe about it. When I have the new cover I will re-work the book trailer. I shall also be making some additions to my blog which I will talk about soon, but it will hopefully stir up some more interest in THE MAN IN A HAYSTACK and encourage more interactivity between myself and my readers – it will be something that practically everyone can get involved in if they wish to. Look for a post about this soon.
My mojo firmly back in place and with a much more positive focus, the next chapter of my writing career beckons. I have to say one last thing – it never ceases to amaze me how supportive the author community is. Essentially we are for the most part complete strangers, but most of us will help each other at the drop of a hat. I am a relative ‘newbie’ and have needed a lot of advice along the way and there are so many great people willing to share the benefit of their own experiences with me, to whom I am truly grateful. I hope that I’ll be able to help other newbies in the same way as my experience grows and they come up behind me looking for support. I’ll always be ready and willing. Sending massive thanks to those authors who have boosted my confidence and given me fresh ideas and support when I’ve needed them most.
Until next time… 😉